California Department of Water Resources has conducted its first snow survey of the season at the Phillips Station. They found that the station is at 177% of normal for early January, a testament to the fantastic start to the winter wet season for California! Statewide, the snowpack is at 174% of normal for this time of year, which is slightly higher than this time last year. Last year, however, the active first part of the season did not carry into the second part of the winter and early Spring. The state fell to only 37% of normal on April 1st. Hopefully repeated rounds of moisture continue to supply the Sierra Nevada with much-needed snowfall throughout the winter and early Spring Season.
Even though above average for this time of year, in terms of the season we are still at 72% of the April 1st average for Phillips Station and 64% of the total statewide. What this means is that with roughly 3 months left in the wet season, there is still a sizeable amount of snow that still needs to fall for the mountains to be at 100% of average by April 1st. The April 1st date is used because it is typically when the snowpack is at its peak in the Sierra.
The California DWR conducts surveys at 130 sites throughout the state, to get a complete picture of the snowpack and water resources throughout the Sierra Nevada. According to DWR, "the Sierra snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs and is an important factor in determining how DWR manages the state’s water resources." You can check the current status of the snowpack in the Sierra on their website, here
Over the last 30 days, we have seen well above average precipitation, with dark blue colors indicating up to 3x more rain/snowfall than is typically seen. However, it takes more than one storm system to combat drought - which in southern California valleys is still at extreme and exceptional levels. The drought monitor updates weekly, so the following update will hopefully show improvements as a result of our weekend system. We won't see the benefits of the Wednesday - Thursday (1/4-1/5) storm system until the following week's drought monitor.
This January's measurement is similar to that of 2013 and 2022 - where the state was well above average for snowpack in early January only to be followed by extremely dry conditions through the second half of the month and into February. The implications of a dry second half of the wet season are increased drought conditions and stress on water resources through the summer. Please continue to conserve water and follow restrictions if you live in California. You can read the full report from the California DWR here
Snow surveys are conducted once per month from January - May. The next survey is planned for February 1st. Stay with WeatherNation for the latest on storm forecasts in the West.